Morally and politically charged, an urgent, readable story of Gotham’s fortunes.



The fall and rise of today’s New York City—for better and worse.

It wasn’t long ago, writes novelist and historian Dyja, when NYC, or at least parts of it, was held up as “a ruin so apparently complete that the rest of the falling nation could say that at least they weren’t there.” That was when Jimmy Carter was president, after Gerald Ford had told the city to “drop dead,” when South Bronx alone experienced 63,000 arsons in two years and the rest of the city was grim and gritty. Thirty-odd years later, the city had undergone “the most dramatic peacetime transformation of a city since Haussmann rebuilt Paris.” The result is a theme park for the conspicuous consumer, a place very different from the “workers’ paradise” of public housing, schools, transit, and other public goods promised by Fiorello La Guardia not long after the five boroughs joined. The low that preceded the high was profound; in the 1970s, the city “lost control…not just because of debt, but because it couldn’t effectively manage its information,” requiring an overhaul of its budgeting and reporting processes. But getting to emerald-city status took more than making the city’s finances transparent. It also involved the rise of Rudy Giuliani, who, long before he became Donald Trump’s latter-day Roy Cohn, divined that “the Irish, Italians, Catholics, and Jews were…all part of White Western Civilization, which needed no explanation or defense,” and used this insight as cause to crack down on non-White populations. Under Michael Bloomberg, money became ascendant. The industrial New York of old became a technological and financial capital par excellence, “a ‘Luxury City’…more upset when a Chanel store has its windows broken than when police murder a man.” Dyja is no fan of the authoritarians and plutocrats, clearly, but he does not spare more liberal mayors like David Dinkins and Bill de Blasio, who “let the city go adrift.”

Morally and politically charged, an urgent, readable story of Gotham’s fortunes.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982149-78-9

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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